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Saban: No time for slacking, opportunity knocks

By Hunter Ford

Alabama coach Nick Saban’s message to his team this week is for it to focus on getting better in order to take advantage of opportunities that lie ahead.

The Tide takes on Western Carolina Saturday for homecoming week, and will face Auburn the following week.  If Alabama wins those two games it will be headed to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game and will remain on track for an appearance in the first College Football Playoff.

Saban became progressively agitated at his Monday press conference, answering questions about his strategy for the Western Carolina game.  Several Tide players, including three starters, have lingering injuries and might benefit from rest this week.

Saban said his players all need to focus on critical elements of their game, regardless of playing against a perceived weaker opponent.  This is not a time to believe it is not necessary to practice hard, Saban said.

“Everybody has to stay focused on what they have to do,” he said.  “It’s not about the other team; it’s about what we have to do to get better.  Stay focused on what you have to do to improve.  That goes for all players.”

Saban said the Tide needs to work on several phases of the game including “covering,” “blocking,” “carrying out fakes,” and “catching the ball.”

Special teams player Altee Tenpenny tasted Saban’s wrath last week when he was late to a team meeting and wasn’t allowed to dress for the Tide’s showdown with then top-ranked Mississippi State.

“Altee Tenpenny was late for the meeting and I just told him to pick his stuff up and we’ll see him later,” Saban said when asked about Tenpenny’s absence last week.  “If it’s not important enough for him to be at the meeting, it’s not important enough for me to dress him in the game.”

Blake Sims running

Asked about quarterback Blake Sims impromptu runs, Saban said he is okay with them as long as Sims doesn’t miss other opportunities.  He said Sims missed an uncovered receiver at least once in the Mississippi State game.

“We know that Blake’s style of athleticism is something that can be a benefit to us,” Saban said.  “We want him to use good judgment, and he has used good judgment.  At the same time, we want him to go through his progressions.”

Saban said he feels the same way watching Sims run as he does watching him pass and hoping a receiver will make the catch.

“I want what everyone else wants. ‘Let’s get a first down and see if we can score’,” Saban said.

Depth at skill positions

Saban said running back Tryen Jones and receiver ArDarius Stewart have stepped up and given the Tide depth at skill positions.  He said the coaching staff has tried all year to work Stewart into the playing rotation.  Stewart made key plays against Mississippi State.

Saban also praised the play of safety Nick Perry whose improvement has helped the secondary.


T.J. Yeldon, DeAndrew White and Adam Griffith will be day-to-day in practice this week.  All have nagging injuries, but nothing new, according to Saban.  Saban said punter J.K. Scott can kick off and attempt long field goals if Griffith is unavailable.  Saban said he may look at other players to attempt short field goals.

Scott’s punting

Saban continued to praise the consistency of Scott, whose “phenomenal” punting played a key role in the Mississippi State game, keeping the Bulldogs in poor field position in critical times.

He said the punt coverage needs to do a better job, noting that the Tide has given up a few 10 or 12 yard returns on long punts.

2 thoughts on “Saban: No time for slacking, opportunity knocks”

  1. I was shocked to see so much of Stewart. Seems he replaced Jones on most of the same plays Jones would have been in for despite doing what I thought was a really great job on special teams.

    And Stewart performed well, too. He made some tough catches in some key plays, especially early on.

    But again there were too many dropped passes all around. It’s strange that it got worse during the second half when MSU’s zone coverage got a bit deeper. MSU has a good defense, but it seemed to be predicated on the d-line rather than changing their reads or moving their linebackers and/or corners around at all from the zone.

    I digress; it’s good to hear once again the flaws being deliberately addressed so quickly. Sims got a lot of heat for the LSU game, and while he did throw some bad passes in that game and probably underthrew at least two passes to Cooper against MSU, his passing hasn’t been the outying problem for his statistical completion rate going down. OK, maybe he shouldn’t have thrown that cross route to OJ Howard in the first place (he shouldn’t have), but his passes have been quick and on target more than the stats suggest.

    For example, on Coop’s TD catch, that ball came out of Sims’s hands plenty quick after the snap and hit high in the back of the end zone. At worst it’s an incomplete pass because unless you’re ready for it (as Cooper was) you’re simply not going to have a man in range. I really liked the play call, and although Cooper has been very good all season, he hasn’t had to make too many talent-based catches all year like he did in his freshman year against Georgia.

    He had a few of those against MSU, though. The Gump in me says throw it to Cooper more often——Sims has the strength and touch to get it there, and Cooper has the vision and the incredible hand strength to pull it in when the run seems stifled and Sims gets trapped in a collapsing pocket.

    And tell me I’m not the only one who would love to see Jones get some clock in this Saturday.

  2. I hope to see all of Alabama’s starters out by halftime, see Coker play all of second half, and I curious to see how field goals are handled.

    Saban probably wants to get as many players in the game as possible, but he was adamant in his press conference that this is not a week to let down in preparation and focus.

    It’s only human nature.,, and the players are human…to think Western Carolina won’t be a tough test. I” tell you what though, a lackluster performance against Western would give a lot of fuel to Bama doubters. Nothing less than sheer dominance for the Tide and naysayers will be hooting.

    And don’t be late for those team meetings.

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